It must have been around this time in The X-Files life that fans started screaming for answers. Well they certainly get them now. This episode is an extremely well made, and pivotal moment in the X-Files saga, as it delves deep into the life of the cigarette smoking man. The episode doesn’t actually feature Mulder or Scully at all, only in the forms of flashbacks and voices, but rather, focuses on the musings of smoking man and his rather cryptic life. There’s a lot to it, so bare with me! It’s the first episode to be split into parts, and also starts of with the text “For nothing can seem foul to those that win” written on screen. From there, the episode goes through in stages of the smoking man’s life, as dictated by Frohinkie, from The Lone gunmen. The story of the Cigarette Smoking Man goes a little something like this…
We start by seeing Smoking man set up a rifle, aimed through a window to the door of the Lone Gunmen’s office. We can hear Mulder, Scully and the 3 guys talking about information they’ve uncovered… all the secrets to one man - Cancer man! With the cross hair aimed at anyone emerging from the building, Cancer man sits and listens to the conversation about his life story from the building within.
It all started with his father, a man who during World War 2, was giving the Nazis’ secret information, and later in life, helped the Russians during the cold war. His reasons were simple. He believed the United States should look to another form of government. Despite his actions, which he was eventually executed for - he was considered an extraordinary man. Cancer man’s mother also died around this time, ironically of lung cancer. He was left with no surviving family, no home and no friends, and was left to train himself up to the rank of captain at the ‘Center for special warfare’. It was here where he got his first assignment. We learn he knew Mulder’s father on this base. Mulder (senior) showed Cancer man a picture of him and a baby, saying his 1 year old (who is Fox Mulder) said his first word ‘JFK’. This is the only time Mulder senior is mentioned in this episode.
So the first assignment comes in. Cancer man is called in to speak to seniors at the base. After a brief chat, the mission becomes clear. assassination of a 46 year old man, a family man, and a US civilian. He’s informed that should he complete this mission (should he choose to accept it, Ha!), then no record of his service with the military will exist, he will become a ghost. When questioned why he’s been chosen (meanwhile rejecting a cigarette being offered by the chief, saying he never touches the things), the General explains that although his father was a traitor to the country, and his views of communism were absurd, he achieved extraordinary things to reach his goal, a quality he believed runs in the family.
So he accepted the assignment. He will be the shooter, but due to the nature of the assassination, a ‘patsy’ must be found (American term for scapegoat basically). Cancer man’s colleague who works on the base - Lee, has been chosen.
With the plan in motion, Cancer man gets into position, waits for the sign, aims his rifle and shoots.. successfully killing John F Kennedy, the US president at the time.
Making his clean getaway, he waits in the cinema while the police take Lee away for the murder of JFK, and a police officer nearby. As Lee is taken, Cancer man lights up his first ever cigarette. That’s right people - Cancer man shot JFK!
The next story starts with the text “Just down the road aways from Graceland”. We then see Cancer man in his apartment typing away, which is something he does more and more often as the episode progresses. They seem to be short stories. While doing so, he hears Martin Luther King on the radio stating that communism is a failure on the peoples judgement to make democracy work. This naturally leads to Cancer man assassinating Martin Luther King. After which, he receives a rejection letter from a publishers addressed to ‘Paul Bloodworth’ stating his stories are crap.
However as time moves into the future, well 1991, we get to see a different side to Cancer man. His meeting with 2 unknown men sheds some light on other influences they have, such as moving the Rodney King trial, the Oscar’s, and the super bowl. At the end of the meeting, he does something we would never have expected.. he gives them each a Christmas present. After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The presents do happen to all be matching ties - the very same ties the men are wearing. Still, it’s the thought that counts. After rejecting an invitation to spend time with their families, he walks past Mulder’s new office and heads back to his apartment to write more stories. One of which contains the lines “Alone in his apartment at Christmas. He believes in sacrifice. Yet, some nights, he longed for a second chance…”, Then Deep Throat calls.
Christmas eve and they’ve recovered a crashed alien ship with one alien alive. Cancer man confirms with Deep Throat that Roswell was a cover story they created. We now see the significance of why Deep Throat became a source for Mulder. Remember a while ago in season 1 when he told the story of having to kill the alien? Well here it is! Lying on a stretcher in a military hanger. Cancer man genuinely believes he’s made it though life but not killing, and tosses a coin to see who will kill the EBE. Deep Throat gets the task.
Finally, we get to the chapter of ‘The X Files’. Cancer man is waiting when Scully gets assigned to work with Mulder. When Mulder and Scully first ever meet, we get to see where the Cancer man was at this time - Smoking a cigarette in a conference listening in on the conversation, smirking slightly when Mulder says to Scully ‘I was under the impression, that you were sent to spy on me’. We see the Smoking man return home yet again to his type writer, but this time - it’s good news. A letter from his publisher thanks him for a story he wrote about alien assassinations (true story to Caner man!), and offers to publish his work in a magazine. We’ve never seen Cancer man so excited, and as a result begins to type up a resignation letter to the security council. Heading out he leaves the cigarettes at home. All does not last when we see him eagerly heading down to the news stand to pick up a copy of the story, only to find it’s all wrong, and that’s not his ending at all. Left broken and annoyed, he tears up the resignation letter, lights a smoke and heads back home. Loosing faith in life entirely.
To end the episode, Frohinkie steps out after revealing all this information to Mulder and Scully, right into the scope of the Cancer man’s rifle. His hand over the trigger, we hear him mutter the words “I could kill you anytime, but not today”.